Let the young rebuild Japan, says Yasuteru Yamada, but let the old clean up the most difficult mess leftover from March's devastating earthquake and tsunamis. The 72-year-old former engineer is recruiting other retirees to replace the younger workers currently braving radiation exposure at Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear power complex. It's not a question of bravery or experience, he says, but one of biological logic.
Yamada tells the BBC:
"I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live," he says. "Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer."
Yamada isn't alone in his desire to help clean up the mess in Fukushima prefecture. He's enlisted 200 of his fellows--many of them engineers by trade, but also cooks, singers, school teachers, and even former power station workers--who have also expressed a willingness to trade in their retirements for the long road to stabilizing the power plant.
And that road is long. Currently the plant's operator, TEPCO, believes that at least three of the reactors underwent meltdowns in the weeks following the 'quakes. The official timetable now calls for bringing the plant to a cold shutdown by January, but some say that schedule is likely too aggressive. Already the allowable dose of radiation for each worker has been raised just so authorities can keep workers on the site.
that's mighty brave of them. not many people would be willing to do the same.
I think it is a very good and altruistic idea for the older folks to help the younger generation. After all, these nuclear reactors were started when the older generation was in their prime. Their children were very young or not even born.
The older generation is also correct about their life expectancy being much shorter, so they have nothing to loose. They can have their names honored and plaqued for bravery and recognition.
I do think that 72 as noted in the story may be a bit too old. They should look for retired individuals between 55 and 65. We don't need workers having heart attacks while on duty.
72 is actually not that old if you are Japanese, they sport the world's longest life expectancy...with people living up to 100yrs.
But the Japanese are an honorable breed.
It's moments like this that I regret reading Ayn Rand and believing her theory that Altruism is false. Very cool.
"KAMIKAZE!!" that doesn't really apply here at all. it means devine wind and means suicide attack (usually from airplanes hence the wind reference). I don't think these men will be attacking anything... I guess the radioactive goo. The might break wind while they are doing it, they are old after all.
I think they should make TEPCO's managers go in there and clean that #### up with out any protection and the only water they can drink is whats pooled up in the basement.
I know $$$$ happens. No matter what this plant would have taken some damage. These #### holes at TEPCO went way above and beyond negligence. I live in Japan and I have to read about this every day. Reactor 5 cooling shut down a few days ago, and they didn't tell ANYONE, even the J-gov, about it for a full day!!!! it went from we will have the reactors under control in 8 months to "we have no idea"
These human scum were born into the world having no idea. Not to mention the J-gov has already started moving in familes and kids into the USA "suggested" evac zone. The J-govs zone is much smaller than what the rest of the world thinks is safe. I could go on and on about this.
The funny thing is. I am still strong proponent for nuke power. I think they should build MORE. I just want them to not be managed and run by dumb monkeys who only care about money and not peoples lives. New nuke reactors are so safe it isnt funny. Look at Germany. they are shutting down safe nuke reactors and burning more coal instead. REALLY????
When the coal plants reach OVER max desging capacity they will buy the rest of thier power from... guess where? nuke plants in France. So Germany is all nice and clean (with black coal smoke everywhere) while France still provides 30% of all of erupoes power, and its nice and clean.
Although the original poster probably wasn't aware of the Japanese divine wind's true history, the term may be more applicable here than you think. It originated as the name of a typhoon that ravaged the fleet of Kublai Khan, who was trying to stage an invasion of Japan in the 13th century. The storm was thought to have been sent by a deity protecting Japan, for the invasion almost certainly would have worked if not for the supposed divine intervention.
Now, in modern times, a different sort of threat has arisen from the sea, and help has once again come from an unexpected place to help combat it. These Japanese elders are the modern guardians of their land, a new divine wind that will turn back the tide of radiation...or so we must hope.
Thank you SGottl7227 for offering that MY age-range "have nothing to lose"!
Good grief. Listen to yourselves, those of you who nod your heads and say "yeah, the old people... let THEM go. No loss for THEM". That's just insulting and degrading.
For ANYONE to volunteer to shorten their life for their country is an INCREDIBLE act of patriotism and heroism. For a man to say "let me go instead of the younger" shows HIS compassion and willingness to sacrifice for a moral cause.
For anyone else to sit back and smack their lips and say "ahhh... we don't want TOO old. Let's throw the 55-65's away".... good god. Think what you are saying!
Every person's life is precious and invaluable to him or her-self. I believe that any able-bodied 99-year-old has every right to life, as much as you do. You think that old people are expendable? Think harder!
I wish our old folks were as amazing... The only thing old folks here in America care about is talk about making more wars and increasing their medicare all while being politically correct... Which is the exact opposite of what those logical and considerate Japanese folks are doing.
@larrymarx yes you are correct but the reference "kamakzi" now used commonly in the USA and English is primarily from its usage in WW2. did you learn the kublin kan thing from Wiki just now????? 'cause I did just a few min ago!!!
Just FYI:"GANBATTE" is a more appropriate phrase (but way overused in Japan).
@TKerouac thank you for saying that. My dad is 68 and works everyday of his life. He has much life left in him. His mother who just passed away a couple years ago worked everyday of her life, lucid and active until literally that last month of her life.
People in Japan are active well into their 80s and 90s.
Trust me I almost hit them (with my car.... by accident) everyday while they ride their bikes!!!! Please tell me the last time you saw an 80 year American on a bicycle. Its EXTREMELY common here. They aren't just old here, they are for the most fully functional humans. not decrepit senile bags of skin like many elderly in western nations. BUT all that is pointless. A life is a life. and scarifying even one day of it is a mighty sacrifice indeed.
@Aldrons Last Hope
It seems the Japanese media also brought up "kamakaze"
Here is s quote I just saw on BBC news
"And he (old man who volunteered) laughs off suggestions his proposed team is comparable to the kamikaze pilots who flew suicide missions in World War II.
"We are not kamikaze. The kamikaze were something strange, no risk management there. They were going to die. But we are going to come back. We have to work but never die.""
so yeah. maybe its has taken on a popular culture meaning of simply "suicide mission" in both Japanese and Western culture. not uncommon at all in either language for a words original meaning to change a little or even drastically with pop culture use.
Or, we can just let those who are responsible for this clean up the mess.
OK, I admit I looked up the name and the time period, but that's hardly the point.
You needn't point out the common usage of the word kamikaze, I believe many of us on this site live in the USA and can figure that one out. My implied reasoning was that we shouldn't let common usage limit our views of concepts and where they may apply. We certainly shouldn't be swayed by the whims of pop culture. We are men of science!...well, popular science...but that's still better than popular culture right?
Also, if you're going to take an authoritative position on this word, for goodness sake spell it right! I mean, you live in Japan!
What are they waiting for? Approval from the young? Just go in do the job and get out. Scrub all the radioactive dust and material and bury them deep underground. After that they can continue their retiring.
Most of the disaster areas are in lockdown with only authorized personnel allowed access. Its not a matter of "just go in do the job and get out."
Similarly, in many refuge centers only active licensed medical personnel are allowed, not retired or volunteer nurses and doctors.
I'm pretty sure the company and government wouldn't like random people waltzing into a nuclear power plant disaster zone.
@inaka_Rob I use the word kamikaze because it is a suicide mission. The Japanese has raised the safe levels of radiation exposure just so that workers can work on the plant. How scientific is that? LOL...no matter what the government standards are, the human body will react to high dosages of radiation the same way.
Kamikaze is now a pop culture reference. If we play word association and I say kamikaze...9/10 people will say something about wwii, Japan, samurai or anime (not divine wind)...that's just the world we live in.
Old people have a lot to offer, not just in Japan, in the west people that are in their 80's built this country and they have earned the right to complain about loud music and crazy teens. People stereotype the elderly as "Grandpa Simpsons"....reality is a lot different.
Again it is very honorable to put your life on the line for others, no matter what your age.
i should beat you, seriously. with a large stick. that is beyond wrong, that is nazi sh**, if you suggest that again i will find you and beat you.
it is a testament to japan's national sense of altruism that the aged and elderly would be willing to do this. it isn't their mess, i think that the head executives of the company running the reactors should be jailed for criminal negligence AND pay the elderly that do help along with a pension! such a selfless act deserves reward.
i wouldn't wish that job upon anyone, it is horrible and kills you quickly, but it needs to be done. nobody can ask these people to do this but they are giving this service. i feel we should do something to reward them.
The people who built their technology base are the ones volunteering here. That are retired now. If anyone's had the time to think about what's happening there, it's likely to be the ones who built it. Turn down that kind of experience and spirit at your own risk.
I believe you do not understand the risk here. It is not that the old are expendable, but dose to older people is expendable dose. They are older than younger people, simply put, and as Yamada in the article states.
This guy is not accepting a shorter life, he is accepting the fact that the statistical probability of cancer is significantly lower in those that are older. A dose is not a death sentence.
Consequence occurs if the 72 year old lives to be 100 and a the cancer develops however at doses low enough to be permissible to rad workers that probability is lower than winning the lottery. There is a risk, and the fact is these older folks are taking a chance in order to save a younger person from taking a much greater chance. They are heroes, but they are also wise.
There will be some tasks that are too risky from an industrial accident or physical stress stand point to put older folks into.
@ghost what is so horrific about using those with no purpose to live such as hardened criminals? Detriments to society that will only spend their days living off the taxpayers money rotting in a cell. There's nothing Nazi about it. It's a smart move.